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Brazil's top court agrees Lula convictions are void

April 16, 2021

With the corruption convictions thrown out on a legal technicality, the former president could take on current leader Bolsonaro in elections next year.

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva
Brazil's former president Lula has had his corruption convictions anulledImage: Miguel Schincariol/AFP

Brazil's Supreme Court confirmed a decision to annul criminal convictions against former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

The decision came after Supreme Court Justice Edson Fachin determined in early March that the lower federal court where Lula was tried lacked jurisdiction — overturning the conviction.

A total of eight justices voted to uphold Fachin's decision on Thursday, while three voted against.

Why was Lula convicted?

The 75-year-old politician, who governed Brazil between 2003 and 2011, was convicted as part of a far-reaching corruption probe known as Operation Car Wash.

In 2017, he was convicted for bribery after accepting a seaside apartment from a construction company in exchange for lucrative government contracts.

The following year, another court found him guilty of corruption and he was sentenced to a total of 26 years on charges of taking bribes.

Lula spent a year and a half behind bars until the Supreme Court ruled he and others could appeal their cases without serving time.

The former Brazilian president and his supporters maintain that the anti-corruption probe was politically motivated.

What happens next?

Lula has not been acquitted as the convictions were overturned on procedural grounds. The judges could still decide to refer the cases against Lula to the federal courts in Brasilia or Sao Paulo.

But with no convictions currently, Lula is now eligible to run once again. He is a favorite among opponents of current President Jair Bolsonaro to take on the right-wing leader in 2022 on behalf of the left-wing Workers' Party that governed Brazil from 2003 to 2016. Lula is probably the party's most prominent politician; he served two terms as president and had run for the job three more times prior to that. 

Early polls suggest that a race between him and Bolsonaro would be tight.

kmm/msh (Reuters, dpa)